State launches investigation into unlicensed 'dentist'

Posted at: 05/06/2014 10:23 PM
Updated at: 05/06/2014 10:26 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The man exposed by KOB Eyewitness News 4 for performing dental services in his mobile home, without a license, could face a felony charge or charges, according to state inspectors.

The inspectors with New Mexico’s Regulation and Licensing Department are building a case against Curtis Abeyta who agreed to make a partial denture for an undercover KOB producer, which is in violation of state law.

Mike Unthank, the superintendent of the department, said the case is a top priority.

“Absolutely, because you're dealing with public health here,” he said.

Unthank explained that state law makes an unlicensed act of dentistry a fourth degree felony and/or require the violator to pay a fine up to $5,000.

He said he takes Abeyta’s case as seriously as the one involving Eliver Kestler, who was arrested by Santa Fe police last year.  Parts of the community referred to Keslter as “El Dentista.” He performed dental services in the back of his car using tools he stored in a tackle box.

“The courts, I'm sure, are not very sensitive to people practicing any form of health care and not being properly licensed,” Unthank said.

Abeyta’s dental practices have been addressed in a courtroom during a child custody case.  Willie Apodaca is fighting Abeyta’s girlfriend for custody of two boys, one of whom needs braces.  In February, Apodaca expressed fear that Abeyta would attempt to treat the boys.  Abeyta’s girlfriend told a judge what kind of work Abeyta does.

“He sometimes fixes partials and that's it, because that's what his dad taught him,” the girlfriend said in a recorded hearing.

After seeing the confrontation KOB had with Abeyta, Apodaca said he’s worried once again.

“It's just concerning me for the safety of my boys,” he said.

The staff at New Mexico’s Dental Association said Abeyta’s case “disgusted” them.

“This guy was preying off of people, who felt they were in need, who could have gone down the street and gotten really good, high-quality care,” Executive Director Mark Moores said.

He referred to a list of options available to New Mexicans in need of free of reduced dental care.

Moores said there are too many unknowns about Abeyta’s supposed lab.

“Putting yourself at risk is not an option, and that's what patients are going to this kind of dentistry are doing.  They're going to get diseases; they're going to have someone who's not trained in diagnosing dental diseases and structural issues,” he said.